Robin Hood

Stephen Knight, Author
Stephen Knight, Author Blackwell Publishers $49.95 (256p) ISBN 978-0-631-17219-2
Reviewed on: 10/31/1994
Release date: 11/01/1994
Unlike Ulysses or King Arthur, Robin Hood never became an epic hero but, according to Knight, he is the only mythic character who remains truly alive in the popular imagination. The outlaw myth abides even though its significance shifts dramatically with changes in time and place. Knight argues convincingly that the search for a historical Robin Hood is a ``delusory quest'' and focuses instead on the sociocultural permutations of the character. Common to all Robin Hood tales is rebellion against an authority perceived as improper, but depending on context, the version may pit gallant Saxon against tyrannical Norman, dispossessed nobleman against cruel usurper, religious reformer against corrupt cleric, neo-pastoral swain against urban capitalist, or even American democrat against Old World aristocrat. Knight's survey of the Robin Hood tradition (from brief 13th-century allusions to recent films featuring Kevin Costner and Mel Brooks) is meticulously thorough, and his attention to secondary sources is judicious. Knight intends his impressive scholarship to be accessible to nonacademic readers, but his usage (``agon,'' ``demotic'') may be daunting for some and strained conceits (``Robin Hood proved a rough diamond among the novelistic jewellers'') may also diminish the book's appeal. Illustrated. (Oct.)
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